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The Shahenshah Who Was Recognised As The Most Eloquent Speaker Started As An Actor Who Stammered

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Ali Peter John

I have still to come to any conclusion about the existence of a god who I pray to all the time. I think that I will have to wait to have a face to face encounter with god to believe in him. And the day I meet god I would first like to thank him for all the gifts he has showered on me and that day I will not forget to thank him for giving me the immense pleasure of being in the company of legends like Dev Anand , Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan and there may be many more and I am sorry to them for not making them a part of this prestigious list. Dev Anand was a combination of a great man and a star, Dilip Kumar was and is the greatest living legends among actors in the world, Lata Mangeshkar who is the voice of India and Amitabh is the kind of legend we will , nor history will , nor time will see, but for all the reasons I cannot explain easily, Dilip Kumar will be the actor who gave a new dimension and a new definition to acting. If god asks me what was so special, I will present him with the reasons I have always kept ready. Allow me to share my list with the world before I present if to god if he has the time and I am sure he will have the time when I just mention the name, Dilip Kumar. The anecdotes below have come from him directly or I have been a part of them …

  • Dilip Kumar was not always the Dilip Kumar the world knows. He was the son of a fruit vendor and worked as a manager in the army canteen in Poona , but was interested in acting even though his father was against his joining the profession of “naach gaane wale” . He had his way and landed in Bombay.
  • He was lucky to have entered the gates of Bombay Talkies where Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai ruled. Devika had one look at the young actor and found him to be good, but she told him that he would have to change his name. Mohammad Yusuf Khan would not do, she said and gave him time to think about it. Among the names she asked him to consider were Jahangir, Vasudev and Dilip Kumar. A week later Yusuf Khan told Devika Rani that he would like to be named Yusuf Khan, but Devika Rani had already made up her mind and he was to be called Dilip Kumar in his first film, “Jwar Bhata” in which Agha was the hero and he was in a side role.
  • Soon word spread about this unusual actor who could work wonders on celluloid.
  • Dilip Kumar had one major drawback. He stammered when he spoke in the first few films he did and did not take it lightly but worked on it and became the greatest speaker of Urdu and Hindi, besides English and even Marathi.
  • He was soon known as the “ tragedy king”. A time came when he was dying in every film he acted in and went into depression for which he had to be flown to England for treatment. The doctors said there was nothing seriously wrong with him and they suggested that he go back home and do a few films in which he played comic characters. As a result, he did films like “Kohinoor” and “Ram aur Shyam” and was a bigger success.
  • Dilip Kumar was extremely choosy about the roles he did. Some times in the late nineties, I told him about how Govinda had completed 300 films and he told me that he had done only 81 films during his entire career.
  • In one of our many evening meetings he said , “I think I am the poorest actors in the Industry. Ye laakhon karodon ki baat hamare samajh ke bahar hai. I was with him when a producer – friend wanted to sign him and all talk was finalized in his Mercedes standing outside his bungalow and he just took the bag of money without making any effort to count how much money there was in it and handed the bag to his chauffeur Kutty and asked him to put the money in the “dicky” and give it to “Madam”(Saira Bano) in the evening. He used to ask for a lakh or two or less from Subhash Ghai during the making of “Saudagar”. He also had all his costumes stitched and (not designed) by his ordinary tailors in Bandra. He rarely carried money on him and had to borrow money from others when he desperately needed it.
  • Mehboob Khan offered him the role of one of the sons of Nargis in “Mother India” but he felt it would not be right for him as he had played the romantic lead opposite Nargis in “Mela” and one more film. His role was then offered to the newcomer, Sunil Dutt who became a cult figure as the dacoit Birju, the bad son of Mother India
  • All his Mercedes cars were gifted to him by some sheikh or other from the gulf.
  • He had some of the richest men, all the big dons like Haji Mastan at his Eid festivals and his birthdays.
  • He was very fond of the grandmother of Saira, Shamshad Begum who was a known singer in the forties and joined her in singing a few of her old songs.
  • He was a perfectionist long before Aamir Khan could be born. For a classical song in “Kohinoor” , he stopped all work only to practice the playing of the sitar.
  • He used to play football in his college days , but switched over to cricket. He carried a huge transistor wherever he went to listen to the commentary and passed his own comments during a match which were respected by players like Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Polly Umrigar and Lata Mangeshkar who he considered a greater expert in cricket than all the other experts.
  • He was the leader of all rallies taken out by the entire industry to raise funds for war victims and the drought victims.
  • He could speak on any subject like bio-economics and other difficult subjects given a notice of one day. I remember a meeting of the international Lions Clubs. He couldn’t come in time because of the traffic and the learned lions passed all kinds of nasty remarks not only about him but the entire industry. One gentleman who was the president of the Club said , “These bloody drunkards who call themselves stars should never be invited to our kind of functions”. Dilip Kumar arrived and there was silence all around. For the next one and a half hour he spoke about the economic problems facing the country and not one of those lions had the guts to roar or complain. They gave him a standing ovation and the man leading the ovation was the same man who was abusing him and the industry.
  • He loved eating the best kind of food and he made sure that all his friends and guests were treated to the same food. He also loved his whisky which he relished and it was a pleasure to see him drunk.
  • He always said there were two Dilip Kumars in him, one good and the other very bad. He once went to the house of a woman he knew very well at midnight and showed him his right fist and said , “ you have only seen the good Dilip Kumar, there is a bad Dilip Kumar too , please don’t see him because he can be very bad”. The man left Bombay for good.
  • The only time he got entangled with another woman was when Asma came into his life and created a storm. I remember he was shooting for B.R Films’ “Mazdoor” and as the rumours of Asma were growing all around , I asked him , “ what will happen to all the awe , Sahab?” and he said , “ don’t worry , sonny, it will all come back “ and it did.
  • The first time he showed signs of losing his memory was when at a musical evening, he talked about the Indo-China war of 1962. The second time was when he talked about his days of playing football at the launching of Sunil Dutt’s election office in Bandra and the last time he showed how his memory was failing him was when he couldn’t recognize Aamir Khan at a public function.
  • He once wanted to be a poet and a writer but couldn’t but he had the highest respect for writers and poets from every country, even from Pakistan.
  • He was never scared of any power. The Shiv Sena created a ruckus outside his bungalow because of his receiving the Nishan-e-Pakistan award from the government of Pakistan. He was a very good friend of the Shiv Sena supremo , Bal Thackeray and only called him and asked him if he has given permission to the boys who were dancing outside his house in the most shameful manner. The protest was called of within 15 minutes.
  • ALL THE BIOGRAPHIES ABOUT DILIP KUMAR HAVE TRIED THEIR BEST TO PAINT A CORRECT PICTURE OF HIM , BUT I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO CLAIM TO KNOW EVEN AN IOTA ABOUT THE DILIP KUMARS AND DILIP KUMARS IN ONE DILIP KUMAR

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